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Less than a month ago, BYU’s fourth game of the 2018 football season looked like it would be a welcome relief from the rugged early season lineup of Arizona, California and Wisconsin.
Saturday’s 4 p.m. game against McNeese — a lower-division school — at LaVell Edwards Stadium figured to be a step down in competition and a chance for the Cougars to catch their breath a bit.
But after the Cougars stunned No. 6 Wisconsin and earned a No. 25 ranking in the Associated Press Top 25 last weekend, they’re the ones with a target on their backs. They’ve gone from hunter to hunted. And McNeese, which traditionally has been one of the top programs in the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS), looks fully capable of pulling off a similar upset of BYU if the Cougars (2-1) aren’t careful.
The Cowboys are 3-0 and ranked No. 9 in the latest FCS poll.
With BYU still on an emotional high after knocking off the Badgers and trying not to look ahead to No. 10 Washington next week in Seattle, this is one of those “trap games” coaches talk about. Offensive coordinator Jeff Grimes, who spent the past four years in the state of Louisiana as LSU’s run game coordinator and offensive line coach, knows the school from Lake Charles, La., can be dangerous.
“I actually talked to our players about that on Monday, and actually used that phrase [trap game],” Grimes said. “I think it is better to address it than pretend like it is not there. I said, No. 1, it starts with who you are. Who we are as individuals. And if you are the right kind of person who plays this game the right way, then you show up to work every single day regardless of who the opponent is.
“Secondly, it is about the opponent that we are playing,” Grimes continued. “And you should have respect for them, because they do have a lot of good players. I went through the list of FBS teams that they have played and either beaten or played very closely over the last 10 years.”
Rounding them up
In case you missed them, here are some of the stories, player profiles and columns the Tribune has brought to you this past week:
• After the Cougars went 4-9 last season and subsequently dismissed half of its coaching staff, some BYU fans said the September schedule was too difficult, and unfair to coach Kalani Sitake and company. But Sitake said he preferred it, and early wins over Arizona and Wisconsin validate his philosophy. Trib
• Columnist Gordon Monson was also impressed with BYU’s stunning turnaround against Wisconsin after a so-so effort at home in the 21-18 loss to Cal the previous week. Trib
• It didn’t take BYU coaches long to start putting the Wisconsin win behind them. Monday, they started warning the Cougars against overlooking McNeese State. Trib
• Moments after the big upset, Sitake said that it wouldn’t have happened if holder Gavin Fowler hadn’t handled a subpar snap properly on the game-winning field goal. Here’s Fowler’s backstory. Trib
• The aforementioned Monson apparently owes some folks dinner after the Cougars proved him wrong. Trib
• My analysis from the 24-21 win and look back at what could be called the biggest win in BYU football history — it is at least among the top five. Trib
Views from elsewhere
• McNeese sees Saturday’s game as a “nothing to lose” proposition and won’t be intimidated by a crowd of more than 50,000 in Provo. The Cowboys have been here before. American.
• Brandon Gurney caught up with BYU’s newest offensive lineman, Keanu Saleapaga, who revealed that he originally was not impressed with BYU, but was talked into signing by his parents. DNews
• Doug Robinson describes what former BYU offensive lineman Bart Oates is up to now. DNews
• Sean Walker with a feel-good story on how BYU and Utah fans teamed up to raise more than $6,000 for charity — former Utah safety Steve Tate’s Hayes Tough Foundation — after an anonymous Utah fan lost a $500 bet on Twitter and then declined to pay up. KSL
They call it ‘Bucky’
After BYU junior Aleva Hifo threw the touchdown pass to Moroni Laulu-Pututau that gave the Cougars a 14-7 lead over Wisconsin, he appeared in the postgame news conference to talk about the big win, and trick play. I asked Hifo for its name and how it was developed, and he mentioned it is called “Bucky” in honor of UW’s mascot.
Wednesday, Grimes said the Cougars borrowed it from a familiar foe — Boise State.
“Most of those, we call those specials. Most of those specials, gadget plays, trick plays, are copies from someone else,” Grimes said. “That was one that [quarterbacks coach Aaron Roderick] brought up to me — I think it was Monday — of last week and it was one that he had seen Boise State run before. … So, each week we discuss those things — what specials we want to run, what screens we want to run.”
As BYU’s new offense has taken shape, it has been obvious that Grimes and his staff have borrowed elements of attacks used by Boise State, LSU and Stanford. I asked Grimes if there are more schools out there from which he’s patterned the offense after, and here’s what he said:
“We will copy anything from anyone that we can. I think it was Harry Truman that said, ‘I not only use all the brains I have, but all the brains I can borrow.’ There are a lot of good ideas out there, and most of them are not original. And so we coaches are known for being copycats. You will see that play again. Somebody will run that play this week in college football, I bet.”
For the record, that solid brains quote is most frequently attributed to Woodrow Wilson.
Elsewhere on campus
• It looked like a perfect setup. Days after earning the No. 1 ranking in women’s college volleyball, BYU had to face archival Utah in Provo. Were the Cougars ripe for an upset? Nope. They took care of business, sweeping No. 24 Utah in front of a record crowd of 5,472. It was the biggest crowd to watch women’s volleyball in the Smith Fieldhouse since 4,672 watched BYU defeat Utah Valley in 2016.
• BYU’s women’s soccer team had seemingly snapped out of its early season slump with three straight wins, but that all ended Monday night at South Field. The Cougars scored first, then gave up three unanswered goals and fell 3-1 to Long Beach State. BYU hosts Utah Valley in the UCCU Crosstown Clash on Friday at South Field. First kick is at 7 p.m.
• Due to poor air quality in Utah County caused by two large wildfires in the mountains southeast of Provo, BYU’s Autumn Classic cross country races had to be moved to Innovation Park Course in Logan. Still, the Cougars swept the competition, winning the men’s 7K race and the women’s 5K race at Utah State’s home course. BYU’s men are ranked No. 2 in the country and its women are ranked No. 11 in the country.
• After the BYU football team deals with McNeese on Saturday (4 p.m., BYUtv) it will have the opportunity to pull off another huge upset. The Cougars’ Sept. 29 game at No. 10 Washington will be televised nationally by FOX Sports at 5:30 p.m. MDT.
• The No. 1-ranked women’s volleyball team opens West Coast Conference play Thursday night at Smith Fieldhouse against Pacific (5-6). The Cougars (10-0) stay at home Saturday night and host Saint Mary’s (8-2), which has won seven straight and is the surprise of the league after being picked to finish seventh.